The hips are the cornerstone of every runner’s body. Comprising an array of muscle groups—from the all-powerful glutes to the smaller hip flexors and adductors—your hips propel every stride, stabilize the thighs, and (quite literally) keep the knee on the right track, physical therapist John Sauer, D.P.T., O.C.S., an endurance program manager with Athletico Physical Therapy, tells SELF.
The only activity performed on a regular basis that fully extends the hip is walking and running. Hence as activity levels decrease so does the ability to extend the hip. This results in compensatory pelvic tilting and lumbar extension, with a reduction in the ability to accommodate uneven ground, negotiate obstacles, or attempt to change walking speed quickly. The compensatory pelvic tilt that accompanies tight hip flexors also predisposes the individual to  postural problems and back pain. Hip stretches done on a regular basis can help you maintain extension range of motion and thereby improve function.

If, like most of us, your hip joints could use some TLC, help has arrived. All you need to do is spend a moment or two before and after your workouts — or, heck, while watching TV — on a time-honored fitness activity few of us do enough of: stretching. Below, we’ll show you some of the best hip stretches to improve flexibility and mobility, hopefully making up for all that time on the couch.
Your doctor may order imaging tests, such as an MRI, to get more information about the location and cause of the irritated nerve. An MRI can show the alignment of vertebral disks, ligaments, and muscles. A CT scan using contrast dye can also provide a useful picture of the spinal cord and nerves. Determining the cause of sciatica can help guide the course of treatment. X-rays can help identify bony abnormalities but can't detect nerve problems.
Now, that we have decreased some of the tension in the back, we can focus on strengthening the front. There are loads of awesome core exercises, but let’s take a look at the most common one and make a couple modifications for this postpartum population. Just keep in mind, these are things to look for in a woman that’s 8 weeks or 8 years postpartum. Just because it’s years later doesn’t mean she fully recovered.
4. Just swing it. For the front-to-back hip swing stretch, lie on the left side with hips stacked, propped up on the left elbow. Bend the left leg to a 90-degree angle and raise the right leg to hip level with toes pointed. Keep abs tight and swing the right leg all the way in front, then swing it all the way to the back, squeezing the booty along the way. Switch sides.
• Osteoarthritis. The most common form of arthritis of the back, osteoarthritis is a chronic condition characterized by the breakdown of the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones where they meet to form joints. In the spine, this breakdown occurs in the cartilage of the facet joints, where the vertebrae join. As a result, movement of the bones can cause irritation, further damage and the formation of bony outgrowths called spurs. These spurs can press on nerves, causing pain. New bone formation can also lead to narrowing of the spinal canal, known as spinal stenosis.
But mobile hip joints don’t just relieve pain. They’re also essential for walking, hiking, running, jumping, dancing, playing sports, and pursuing virtually any fitness goal safely and effectively. Want to develop stronger, more muscular legs? Hip mobility allows you to lunge and squat more deeply so you can reach your muscles’ potential. Want to avoid injury? Hip mobility improves range of motion so you can perform exercises more safely.

I am a science writer, former massage therapist, and I was the assistant editor at ScienceBasedMedicine.org for several years. I have had my share of injuries and pain challenges as a runner and ultimate player. My wife and I live in downtown Vancouver, Canada. See my full bio and qualifications, or my blog, Writerly. You might run into me on Facebook or Twitter.


Often people go to the doctor seeking help for hip pain. Sometimes, people try to treat it themselves. They are convinced there is something wrong with their hip and the treatments begin. However, one thing is for sure, hip pain is not always as it appears. Hip pain can be a result of a problem in the hip joint itself. However, it can also be a result of a back problem or a soft tissue problem around the hip region.
The question of pain in the hip region is not always a simple one and frequently involves specialized evaluation. Once the diagnosis is determined, options are many and should be discussed with you prior to instituting a treatment plan. The purpose of this article is to help to better assess pain, whether it's coming from the back or the hip itself. Remember, there are many options for treatment. Diagnosis is the first step to successful treatment.
Meanwhile, many non-dangerous problems can cause amazingly severe back pain. A muscle cramp is a good analogy — just think about how painful a Charley horse is! Regardless of what’s actually going on in there, muscle pain is probably the main thing that back pain patients are feeling. The phenomenon of trigger points — tiny muscle cramps, basically11 — could be the entire problem, or a complication that’s more painful and persistent than the original problem. It’s hard to overstate how painful trigger points can be, but they are not dangerous to anything but your comfort.
While you can’t choose where the weight comes off, you can eventually slim your hips so long as you stay consistent in your training. Cardiovascular exercise can help you lose some fat, but strength training serves a twofold purpose, burning fat while developing muscle for all-over tightening. “The more you build a muscle, the more [that part of the body] is going to firm up,” Braun says.
Why is back pain still a huge problem? Maybe this: “It is extremely difficult to alter the potentially disabling belief among the lay public that low back pain has a structural mechanical cause. An important reason for this is that this belief continues to be regularly reinforced by the conditions of care of a range of ‘hands-on’ providers, for whom idiosyncratic variations of that view are fundamental to their professional existence.”

While the content and materials contained in the articles on this website have been written & researched by Sally Ann Quirke, a professional, practising & fully qualified Chartered Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist) based in Ireland, they are provided for general information and educational purposes only. They do not constitute medical advice on any particular individual situation. Please see your Chartered Physiotherapist or other medical practitioner for full and individual consultation.
2016 — More editing, more! Added some better information about pain being a poor indicator, and the role of myofascial trigger points. This article has become extremely busy in the last couple months — about 4,000 readers per day, as described here — so I am really polishing it and making sure that it’s the best possible answer to people’s fears about back pain.
To complete this stretch, take a knee in front of a wall so that the toes of the leg you have raised are pressing against the wall. Place that same hand against the wall. Reach behind you with your other hand and grab your leg that’s sitting on the floor by the ankle, and bend it back towards your body. Hold this position and lunge forward towards the wall to complete the stretch. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds, then repeat on the other side of your body.
Line up your hips parallel to each other, continually pressing the left hip toward the floor. If this position is too difficult, place a blanket under your bottom. To intensify the stretch, move the right foot away from the left side of your body and drop to the elbows or chest. To make this pose less intense, move the right foot closer to your right leg and stay on the hands instead of folding.
It’s a common issue, says Prevention advisor Rob Danoff, director of family and emergency medicine residency programs at Aria Health in Philadelphia. "For people who sit a long time at work, the hip flexors and rotators become tight, and the gluteal muscles become weak," he says. "This combination negatively affects our ability to walk, maintain proper posture, and the stability of our spine."
It’s well established that about eight in 10 people in the U.S. will experience back pain at some point in their lives. And while the causes of such pain often vary, say physical therapists and other medical professionals say that increasingly, in a world that accommodates a more sedentary lifestyle, the blame for low-back pain can often be traced to an area a little lower in the kinetic chain: the hips.
Gait analysis studies in the elderly show that they typically have a shortened step length. Whether that is a result of tight hip flexors or due to reduced balance, the propensity to walk with shorter steps will itself lead to tightness in hip flexors and anterior joint structures. Hip stretches may be a relatively easy preventative strategy for the elderly with gait abnormalities and may help to prevent falls.
Wrapping a Thera-Band around your ankles before you perform Lateral Walks or Shuffles increases resistance, strengthening your hip abductors and gluteus medius. When you perform this exercise, you will quickly find out if you have weak hips. This is most beneficial for basketball players, who are required to be in a crouched defensive stance and shuffle when playing defense.
If you've been working out hard, playing football or other sports, or moving a lot of heavy furniture and are suddenly suffering with radiating lower back pain, chances are you have pulled muscles or strained muscles in the back. Often, strained muscles will cause a burning sensation in the lower back a feeling of having limited movement ability. Doctors prefer to limit prescribing of opiate pain medications and may give you an alternative medication with less risk of becoming dependent.
To ease the pain and lower your odds of an injury, don’t try to do too much at once. “Start with just 10 minutes,” says Arina Garg, MD, a rheumatology fellow at The Center for Excellence for Arthritis and Rheumatology at the Louisiana University Health Sciences Center. “Every few days, increase that time by 5 to 10 minutes.” Your goal is to work up to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, 5 days a week.
To complete this stretch, take a knee in front of a wall so that the toes of the leg you have raised are pressing against the wall. Place that same hand against the wall. Reach behind you with your other hand and grab your leg that’s sitting on the floor by the ankle, and bend it back towards your body. Hold this position and lunge forward towards the wall to complete the stretch. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds, then repeat on the other side of your body.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hands on hips. Brace your core—imagine you’re about to get punched in the stomach. Without changing the position of your knees, bend at your hips and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor (or as far as you can comfortably go without rounding your back). Pause, then lift your torso back to the starting position. Be sure to squeeze your glutes and push your hips forward to lift your torso back to the starting position. This ensures you’re engaging your hip muscles instead of relying on your lower back. Do 10 reps total.
Mike, I cannot thank you enough for this instruction on stretching the hip flexor muscle. Over the past three years, my driving has increased dramatically. It is not uncommon for me to drive 1,000 business miles or more each week. I have always been very fit, but now, in my early 50’s, I am finding that it is easier to get “wracked up” by things like excessive driving.
The sacroiliac joint connects the lower spine to the pelvis and any injury or strain to this area can cause a lot of back, hip, groin, and sciatic pain. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction (SJD) can cause not only radiating lower back pain but can also severe pain in the hip area including hip pain at night when sleeping and hip pain when sitting. Often the pain resembles that of a hip injury it is so severe. SJD can also cause severe pain in the groin area. Women may also notice pain running along the distribution of the sciatic nerve. Treatment for sacroiliac joint dysfunction includes rest, anti-inflammatory drugs, and sciatic nerve massage.
This pose is similar to seated forward fold, and provides the same benefits. It also stretches your groin. Assume the same starting position as the forward fold, but slide the sole of your left foot against your right inner thigh. Keeping your right foot flexed, lower your left knee as far as you can into a half-butterfly position. Walk your hands down the sides of your right leg as you fold forward as far as you can with your torso. Hold for 8-10 breaths, and then slowly rise back up. Switch legs and repeat.
You can perform this exercise seated in a chair or on your back on the floor. In a chair, cross your left ankle over your right knee and then lean forward until you feel a stretch in your hip. On the floor, cross your left ankle over your bent right knee and then reach under with both hands and pull your right leg toward your head. Perform each variation on both legs.
Some back pain is caused from a "ruptured disc". This pain is often experienced in the gluteal region of the body. Many people call this the "hip" region although it is not usually indicative of a hip joint problem. This is actually behind the hip, an important anatomic thought when considering hip pain, rather than in the hip itself. A condition related to degeneration of the lower back creating narrowing of the spinal canal or adjacent areas is called spinal stenosis and frequently causes pain in the hip region. The history of stenosis has to be compared with hip joint pain. Spinal stenosis can cause leg pain while walking as well as fatigue in the legs even when rising from a chair. Stenosis pain is relieved with sitting and will re-occur when walking is resumed.
I’m just going to briefly touch on this because this will look different for each person. But know that if your hip flexors are or always feel tight, there is a reason. Muscles don’t get tight with no cause, and it’s usually because they are compensating for a weakness elsewhere or are constantly in a shortened position (as is the case with sitting).
• Psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis accompanied by the skin disease psoriasis. The skin disease often precedes the arthritis; in a small percentage the joint disease develops before the skin disease. For about 20 percent of people with psoriatic arthritis, the disease involves the spine. In some cases, bony overgrowth can cause two or more vertebrae to grow together, or fuse, causing stiffness.

Acute back pain is often the result of muscle sprains or strains. Sprains occur when your ligaments are overstretched and sometimes torn. Strains, on the other hand, are caused by stretching — and possible tearing — of your tendons or muscles. Though the immediate reaction is pain in your back, you may also experience dull aches or discomfort in your hip.


Endometriosis (when the uterus lining grows somewhere else) can cause pelvic tenderness, which some women describe as hip pain. Pain from the back and spine also can be felt around the buttocks and hip, Siegrist says. Sciatica, a pinched nerve, typically affects one side of the body and can cause pain in the back of the right or left hip — the pain from sciatica can start in your lower back and travel down to your buttocks and legs.
When you tell your doctor your hip hurts, the first thing she should do is confirm that your hip is actually the problem. Women might say they have hip pain, but what they may mean is that they have pain in the side of the upper thigh or upper buttock, or they may be experiencing lower back pain, says Stephanie E. Siegrist, MD, an orthopedic surgeon in Rochester, New York, and a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Hip pain is often felt in the groin or on the outside of the hip directly over where the hip joint (a ball-and-socket joint) is located.

How to do it: Begin with your hands and knees on the floor in a tabletop position. Grab a resistance band and hold it directly beneath your shoulders. Loop one foot through the band so it sits halfway down the foot. When ready, move only the banded leg backward, keeping the knee at a 90-degree angle. Your foot should be facing the ceiling, and your hip, thigh, and knee should all be in alignment and parallel to the floor. As you move your leg backward, focus on contracting the glute and not moving the knee joint. When you can’t extend back farther without changing your leg position, stop. Slowly lower to the start position. That’s one rep. Repeat this movement, alternating sides each time.
When it comes to your workouts, low-impact aerobic exercises are generally best and least likely to cause issues, says Kelton Vasileff, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “I recommend swimming, walking, elliptical, cycling, and stationary biking for general exercise,” he says. All of these are great ways to move your body without pounding your joints.
The sacroiliac joint connects the lower spine to the pelvis and any injury or strain to this area can cause a lot of back, hip, groin, and sciatic pain. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction (SJD) can cause not only radiating lower back pain but can also severe pain in the hip area including hip pain at night when sleeping and hip pain when sitting. Often the pain resembles that of a hip injury it is so severe. SJD can also cause severe pain in the groin area. Women may also notice pain running along the distribution of the sciatic nerve. Treatment for sacroiliac joint dysfunction includes rest, anti-inflammatory drugs, and sciatic nerve massage.
Joint injections: Steroids can reduce the swelling and inflammation of the nerves. Joint injections are a minimally invasive procedure that involves an injection of a corticosteroid and an analgesic-numbing agent into the painful joint (Fig. 2). While the results tend to be temporary, if the injections are helpful they can be repeated up to three times a year.

When you tell your doctor your hip hurts, the first thing she should do is confirm that your hip is actually the problem. Women might say they have hip pain, but what they may mean is that they have pain in the side of the upper thigh or upper buttock, or they may be experiencing lower back pain, says Stephanie E. Siegrist, MD, an orthopedic surgeon in Rochester, New York, and a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Hip pain is often felt in the groin or on the outside of the hip directly over where the hip joint (a ball-and-socket joint) is located.

For example, one workout you may want to do lateral lunges with mini-band ankle walks. Another workout you may choose rotational step-ups with the 4-way cable hip exercise. The activation, mobility, and flexibility exercises can be done more frequently and not necessarily as part of a stand-alone workout. There's no one-right way to incorporate these exercises, so don't be afraid to experiment.
The good news is that there are plenty of good hip stretches out there that you can do to relieve discomfort, decrease tightness, and increase mobility in your hips. Since your hips are involved in so many of the movements you make (both inside and outside of the gym) stretching them is a great way to keep them feeling good and ready to work for you. Add some of the 12 hip stretches Atkins demos below to the end of your workout, or spend 10 minutes each day just doing a few of them, to improve mobility in your hips.
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